Fea­ture: Ask the iTunes Guy

Kirk McEl­hearn an­swers your iTunes ques­tions

iPad&iPhone user - - NEWS -

Can I get rid of the play but­ton?

Q: Is there any way to get rid of the play but­ton that dis­plays when I hover over art­work in iTunes? I of­ten move my cur­sor over the art­work and

an al­bum starts play­ing be­cause I in­ad­ver­tently dragged my cur­sor over the but­ton.

A: No. The but­ton you’re talk­ing about dis­plays when you hover your cur­sor over an al­bum in cer­tain views, and over other items, such as movies and TV shows. This but­ton is use­ful be­cause it lets you play items with a sin­gle click. How­ever, you can also dou­ble-click an al­bum or a movie to start play­ing it, so it’s not es­sen­tial.

No re­peat, please

Q: I’d like to make a smart playlist where no songs by the same artist come up within, say, 25 songs. Is there any way to do this?

A: No, you can’t. We get this ques­tion of­ten. Peo­ple want to have more var­ied smart playlists than what iTunes’s ran­dom se­lec­tions serve them. Some peo­ple want to en­sure that no songs from the same al­bum come up in a playlist; oth­ers want to ex­clude artists from re­peats.

It’s an in­ter­est­ing idea, but it’s a bit dif­fi­cult to imag­ine how it might be im­ple­mented. There could be a con­di­tion in the smart playlist di­a­log al­low­ing you to avoid re­peats by artist, al­bum, and so on, but how would that be ap­plied? Since smart playlists – in most cases – re­gen­er­ate as you play them, and since the num­ber of tracks they con­tain can vary de­pend­ing on your set­tings, how would you de­fine the no re­peat pe­riod?

We think it’s a great idea, but we feel that adding this type of con­di­tion to smart playlists would be con­fus­ing.

Whither play counts on my iPhone?

Q: Is there any way to see play counts for my mu­sic on iOS?

A: No, not pos­si­ble. The iOS Mu­sic app doesn’t show you as much meta­data as iTunes does. It only shows such things as the name of the artist, al­bum, and track. Adding this might be use­ful to some peo­ple, but the Mu­sic app is al­ready clut­tered enough. We don’t think most peo­ple need to see this in­for­ma­tion, and Ap­ple is right to not dis­play it.

Too much re­cently added mu­sic

Q: Is there any way to re­move items from the Re­cently Added list in iTunes or in the iOS Mu­sic app? Some­times I add a lot of new mu­sic, but I re­ally don’t want to see it there.

A: No. The Re­cently Added lists, in both iTunes and the iOS Mu­sic app, are a sort of smart playlist that shows all your mu­sic (or other con­tent in iTunes) from most re­cently added to the old­est. This view doesn’t give you any dis­play op­tions; you can’t change the size of the art­work or the scope of ‘re­cently’.

What’s the track?

Q: You used to be able to see track num­bers for each track on a playlist on the iPhone, but the iOS Mu­sic app re­moved this a while ago. Is there any way to view track num­bers in playlists?

A: No, sorry. And we don’t know why. Per­haps Ap­ple thought that those track num­bers were dis­tract­ing. We never found them use­ful, to be hon­est. If we could see, for ex­am­ple, 7 of 10, rather than just 7, might be use­ful, but within a playlist we don’t see this as be­ing per­ti­nent in­for­ma­tion.

Change the date

Q: Can I change the date added that shows up on my me­dia in iTunes?

A: Nope. We get this ques­tion from peo­ple who use the Date Added tag in their mu­sic files to cre­ate smart playlists, such as ones that con­tain

mu­sic added in, say, the past month. Many peo­ple use such playlists to have a sort of ro­ta­tion list of re­cent mu­sic.

How can I sync my most re­cent audiobooks?

Q: My au­dio­book li­brary is pretty large, and it is dif­fi­cult to find my most re­cently down­loaded or pur­chased titles. iTunes sorts audiobooks by name so I have to scroll like crazy, and vis­ually search for a ti­tle. Is there an op­tion to sort by most re­cently pur­chased or down­loaded? It would keep me from hav­ing to scroll all over the place to find the titles to trans­fer to my iPhone, and delete old titles that I’ve fin­ished.

A: From this ques­tion, we’re as­sum­ing that the reader wants to be able to see this sort or­der in the iTunes sync pane, when his iPhone is con­nected. Un­for­tu­nately, that’s not an op­tion, but we can of­fer a sug­ges­tion for a bet­ter way to view and sync audiobooks. Start by cre­at­ing a smart playlist, with the fol­low­ing con­di­tions:

Match audiobooks for the fol­low­ing rules

Plays is 0

Limit to 25 items se­lected by most re­cently added Match only checked items

Here’s what this smart playlist does.

The first ‘match’ rule tells iTunes to only find audiobooks.

The Plays is 0 rule tells iTunes to only in­clude audiobooks that haven’t been lis­tened to in their en­tirety; in other words, all un­lis­tened audiobooks will be added to the playlist.

You can limit the playlist to any num­ber of items; that num­ber de­pends on how many new audiobooks you have.

In the ‘limit’ rule, sort­ing by most re­cently added means that iTunes will not only find audiobooks that you haven’t lis­tened to, but only those you’ve added re­cently, and will sort in that or­der, so the most re­cent will be at the top of the playlist.

‘Match only checked items’ means that you can uncheck any au­dio­book so it doesn’t ap­pear in the playlist.

‘Live up­dat­ing’ means that the playlist up­dates as you add new items to your li­brary, or as you lis­ten to audiobooks to the end, at which time their play counts up­date.

You can then choose to sync this playlist in­stead of man­u­ally se­lect­ing books. Con­nect the iPhone to your com­puter, se­lect it in iTunes, then click Audiobooks in the side­bar. Un­der In­clude Audiobooks from Playlists, check this smart playlist. At the same time, uncheck Sync Audiobooks at the top of the win­dow so only those books in the

playlist sync. Be­fore you sync, scan the playlist, uncheck books you don’t want to sync, and it’ll be a lot eas­ier in a large li­brary to al­ways have your most re­cent, un­lis­tened books on your iPhone.

You can also use a sim­i­lar tech­nique if you want to sync, say, your most re­cently down­loaded movies and TV shows, the ones you haven’t watched yet.

Why have my Ap­ple Mu­sic tracks been deleted?

Q: I no­ticed re­cently that an al­bum I had added from Ap­ple Mu­sic was now dimmed in my iTunes li­brary and would no longer play. I al­ways down­load tracks as op­posed to stream­ing them di­rectly so I was cu­ri­ous as to why I couldn’t play them. When I looked more closely, I saw that the iCloud Sta­tus for these tracks was No Longer Avail­able.

A: We were sure we’d down­loaded these tracks, and when we looked in our Time Ma­chine backup, we found that this was, in­deed, the case. This means that iTunes deleted the lo­cal files. We can

un­der­stand tracks be­ing un­avail­able to stream if they are re­moved from Ap­ple Mu­sic, but we were un­der the (mis­guided) im­pres­sion that as long as you had a valid Ap­ple Mu­sic sub­scrip­tion, you’d be able to play any tracks pre­vi­ously down­loaded.

Record la­bels have the right to choose whether or not the mu­sic they put on the iTunes Store is ‘cleared’ for stream­ing. This choice is avail­able for each al­bum, and also for each track. It’s pos­si­ble to not al­low an al­bum to be streamed, or to only al­low one or two tracks of an al­bum to be streamed. La­bels can also change this at any time.

What’s con­fus­ing is the fact that, as you say, tracks you have down­loaded, and lis­tened to, are sud­denly un­avail­able.

But this does bring up a broader point about rent­ing mu­sic ver­sus own­ing it. When you rent mu­sic, it can dis­ap­pear at any time, and Ap­ple re­moves those tracks from your com­puter (but not from your li­brary). This doesn’t hap­pen of­ten, but it hap­pens; in our Ap­ple Mu­sic li­brary of 30,000 tracks, 355 of them are ‘No Longer Avail­able’. And if it’s mu­sic you re­ally like, you’ll be an­noyed.

You can find the tracks in your li­brary that are no longer avail­able with a smart playlist. Use the fol­low­ing con­di­tions:

Match mu­sic for the fol­low­ing rules iCloud Sta­tus is No Longer Avail­able

It’s worth check­ing from time to time to see how much of the mu­sic you added to your li­brary has dis­ap­peared. Ap­ple is not be­ing ne­far­i­ous; it’s just do­ing what the la­bels tell it to do.

iTunes shows you a track’s play count, but the iOS Mu­sic app doesn’t

This smart playlist can help sync new audiobooks

On this Brad Mehldau Trio al­bum, a sin­gle track, Baby Plays Around, is dimmed, and is no longer avail­able

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